Netanyahu, Clinton to Speak at Conference Amid U.S./Israel Tensions

As tensions between the U.S. and Israel have developed over the past week, major voices in U.S./Israel relations are preparing to gather in Washington, DC for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference.

Among the speakers are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both will address the conference on Monday at the Washington Convention Center, though at different times: Clinton at 8:30 a.m., and Netanyahu at 6:30 p.m.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, will speak Monday.

Clinton reportedly gave Netanyahu a tongue-lashing over the announcement of settlement construction that upstaged Vice President Biden's visit to Israel last week; Netanyahu, for his part, has apologized. The prime minister spoke with Biden over the phone Tuesday night, and Clinton plans to call him soon, according to AFP.

Amid all this, AIPAC has voiced concern over White House reaction to the flap (David Axelrod called the settlements announcement an "affront" and an "insult," appearing on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday), calling on the administration to do all it can to defuse tension.

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., will address the conference on Sunday. Oren this week forcefully denied saying, as was reported by Haaretz, that U.S./Israel relations are at a 35-year low point.

Sunday will also feature speeches from Robert Kagan, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Dan Senor, and Alan Dershowitz. Monday will feature House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Charles Schumer.

The conference will be held Sunday, March 21 through Tuesday, March 23. AIPAC expects 7,000 community and student activists to attend.

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